Image for Evening primrose ( spp.)
Evening primrose (Oenothera spp.)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • (+)-catechin, aceite de onagra (Spanish), arachadonic acid (AA), cis-linoleic acid, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), Echte Nachtkerze (German), ellagic acid, EPO, fever plant, gallic acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), gamolenic acid (GLA), herbe aux anes (French), Huile D'Onagre (French), kaempe natlys, King's Cureall, la belle de nuit (French), linoleic acid (LA), nachtkerzenol (German), night willow-herb, Oenothera biennis L., Oenothera communis Leveill, Oenothera graveolens Gilib, Oenothera paradoxa, omega-6 essential fatty acid, Onagra biennis Scop, Onagraceae (family), Onogra vulgaris, onagre bisannuelle, pentagalloylglucose, penta-O-galloyl-beta-D-glucose, primrose oil, procyanidins, scabish, Spach, stella di sera, sun drop, Teunisbloem (Dutch), unsaturated fatty acids.
  • According to secondary sources, Epogam® (40mg GLA and 10mg vitamin E) and Efamast (gamolenic acid) had their product licenses withdrawn October 7, 2002, following a review by the MCA/Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) of all the relevant information. It was determined that the information available did not support the standard of efficacy required for the authorization of these products as medicines for the treatment of eczema and mastalgia.
  • Combination product examples: Bronchicum® Tropfen (thyme and primrose) (1;2), Bronchipret® TP FCT (thyme and primrose) (3), Bronchicum® Elixir S (thyme and primrose) (1).
  • Zestra® (borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, angelica root extract, and coleus extract) (4).
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Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • The medicinal use of evening primrose oil (EPO) is a phenomenon brought by its minimal adverse effects and theoretical mechanisms (6;7). Native Americans traditionally considered the seeds, leaves, and roots to be a food (8) and used poultices (of the whole plant) to treat bruises and root decoctions for the management of hemorrhoids. The leaves were thought to be helpful to treat minor wounds, gastrointestinal complaints, and sore throats.
  • Oil extracted from evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) plant seeds consists of a high amount of unsaturated fatty acids, particularly linolic and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (9;10;11;12;13;14). In addition, it is also rich in omega-6 fatty acids (15;16;17). Borage oil is similar to EPO; however, it consists of even higher GLA concentrations (6).
  • EPO has been studied in a wide variety of disorders, particularly those affected by metabolic products of essential fatty acids. Good scientific evidence supports its use for atopic dermatitis in both children and adults, although additional trials are warranted before the data can be considered definitive. High-quality evidence for its use in most medical conditions, such as diabetes, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and rheumatoid arthritis, is still lacking.
  • GLA has been licensed for the treatment of non-cyclical breast pain (mastalgia) in England, and for the treatment of eczema in numerous countries, including England, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and Italy (18).

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.